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Today's coronavirus news: Global COVID-19 cases expected to hit 20 million this week; Ontario reporting 115 new cases – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 10:13 a.m. The head of the World Health Organization predicted that the number of people infected by the coronavirus will hit 20 million this week.

  • 10:12 a.m. Ontario is reporting 115 new cases of COVID-19.

  • 9:10 a.m. Windsor-Essex will move into Stage 3 of reopening on Wednesday

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1:52 p.m. Quebec’s updated back-to-school plan requires students in Grade 5 and up to wear masks in all common areas of school buildings, except classrooms.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said today the government’s new strategy aims to make communication between teachers and students as easy as possible.

Roberge says each classroom will be its own bubble, and students will not be required to maintain a two-metre distance with their classmates.

And while all elementary and high school students will be expected to return to school at the end of the month, children with significant health problems will be offered a remote learning option.

Roberge says in order to protect children from harm, schools need to fully reopen in order to offer students the ability to properly socialize and learn.

Quebec reported one new death in the past 24 hours attributed to COVID-19 and 98 new cases of the virus — the lowest daily number of cases since July.

1:42 p.m. The British government is laying off 6,000 coronavirus contact tracers and deploying the rest to work in local teams, in an acknowledgment that the centralized track-and-trace system is not working well enough.

The U.K. has been criticized for failing to keep track of infected people’s contacts early in the pandemic, a factor that contributed to the country’s high death toll of more than 46,500, the most in Europe.

Since May the country has rapidly set up a test-and-trace system to try to contain the outbreak, recruiting thousands of staff in a matter of weeks. But the system, which relies on telephone call centres, has failed to reach more than a quarter of contacts of people who have tested positive for the virus.

Some frustrated local authorities have set up their own contact-tracing networks, which have proved more effective because they know communities better and can go door-to-door if needed.

The national test-and-trace program said Monday it was officially adopting that localized approach. Some 6,000 contact tracers will be laid off this month, and the remaining 12,000 will work with local public health authorities around the country.

The government also abandoned plans to create a contact-tracing phone app, but says it will be reintroduced in some form in the near future.

1:42 p.m. Greece’s culture ministry is closing down the Museum of the Ancient Agora, a major archaeological site in central Athens, for two weeks after a cleaner there was diagnosed with COVID-19.

A ministry statement Monday said the museum would be comprehensively disinfected, while the actual site of the Ancient Agora, which was the administrative, political and social centre of the ancient city, will remain open.

Greek sites and museums are open to visitors, with the wearing of masks obligatory in museums.

The closure also comes as Greece has announced 126 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last day, bringing the country’s total to 5,749, and one more death for a total death toll of 213 amid a spike in daily infections.

Of the new cases, 17 were migrants who arrived on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos who arrived from the nearby Turkish coast.

The government announced new measures Monday to curb the spread, including orderings bars, restaurants and cafes in several regions to shut between midnight and 7 a.m. Other measures include requiring those arriving in the country from land borders, as well as those flying in from several European countries, to have proof of a negative coronavirus test.

12:20 p.m. Ontario reported 115 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, ending a seven-day stretch with fewer than 100 new infections a day.

It was a sharp increase from 79 new cases Sunday and 70 on Saturday as health officials keep a close watch on daily tallies with most of the province in Stage 3, where the risk of spread is higher if people do not take proper precautions such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings.

Health Minister Christine Elliott cautioned against reading too much into a one-day jump in the case count.

“While a slight uptick and an end to our steak, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that thanks to your efforts the trend in the province remains downward,” she said on Twitter as Premier Doug Ford’s government allowed Windsor-Essex to move to Stage 3.

Over the weekend, the active number of cases across the province dropped below 1,000 for the first time since the virus peaked and now sits at 994, the Ministry of Health said in its daily status report based on figures reported by health units at 4 p.m. the previous day.

Eighteen of Ontario’s 34 public health units had no new cases and 10 regions had fewer than five new infections. The highest numbers were 20 in Ottawa, 19 in Peel and 16 in Toronto.

Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson: Ontario ends weeklong streak of COVID-19 cases below 100

12:18 p.m. The federal Liberals are defending their decision to have the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. oversee a rent-relief program for small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The opposition Conservatives have questioned why the CMHC, rather than the Canada Revenue Agency, was asked to run the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, given the revenue agency manages several other pandemic-related support programs.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s spokeswoman Maeva Proteau says the CMHC was considered the best fit because it deals with mortgages and understands Canada’s real estate market.

She says going with the Crown corporation was seen to be fastest because it could make payments to businesses without requiring new legislation, which would have further delayed the rent program.

The CMHC later contracted mortgage firm MCAP to administer the rent program — another choice the Tories have questioned, since an executive vice-president at the company is married to Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Telford followed proper ethical procedures when it came to the government’s dealings with MCAP, while the Liberals and CMHC say the $84-million contract was awarded independent of any political involvement.

12 p.m. From the most romantic spots along the Seine to popular shopping streets, residents and visitors in Paris were required to wear face masks in some outdoor areas of the French capital starting Monday amid an uptick in reported coronavirus cases.

Police are authorized to issue a 135-euro ($159) fine to people who do not follow the new public health requirement.

One location covered by the measure is the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, among the city’s most popular outdoor spots for lunch or an aperitif with friends.

“In the morning when there is nobody on the canal, I think it is a bit of a drastic measure,“ lawyer Helene Rames said after the face mask rule took effect.

“But it is true that at night and on the weekends, you can see many young people here close to each other, which is scary,“ she added. ”If it’s for the health of our elders then let’s wear it.”

11:56 a.m. Thailand is making plans to allow at least 3,000 foreign teachers to enter the country, even as it continues to keep out tourists and tightly restricts other arrivals to guard against new coronavirus infections.

Attapon Truektrong, secretary-general of the Private Education Commission, said Monday that those who have registered include teachers returning to their jobs after leaving during the pandemic, as well as newly employed teachers.

The teachers, who come from countries including the Philippines, New Zealand, the United States and Britain, will have to be quarantined for 14 days after arrival. Thailand barred scheduled passenger flights from abroad in early April

Thailand hosts many international schools and there is a general shortage of qualified teachers of English and other non-Thai languages.

11:56 a.m. Students have begun returning to some Florida university campuses as the state reports its lowest number of new daily cases in more than a month.

Classes for new students started Monday at Stetson University. Students moved into dormitories over the weekend at the DeLand campus as well as at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

In Orange County, public school students started the school year with two-weeks of online learning. At the end of the month, they will get to choose between continuing with virtual learning or going to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, Florida reported 4,155 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the smallest daily caseload increase since the end of June.

11:56 a.m. The number of day-to-day increases in new COVID-19 infections in Italy dropped significantly on Monday. But frequently numbers provided by the Health Ministry on Mondays tend to be on the low side, reflecting often incomplete reports from regional public health offices during the weekend.

Still, the 259 cases nationwide registered in the 24-hour period ending on Monday evening was a steep decrease from the 463 infections registered on Sunday.

Outstripping northern Lombardy, the region which had by far suffered the brunt of the pandemic, were Emilia-Romagna, also in the north, and Lazio, the south-central region which includes Rome.

Lazio health authorities said at least nine of its latest 38 cases were confirmed in tourists who returned from vacations on the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Spain’s Ibiza. Sicily and Puglia, two southern Italian regions popular for its beaches, also registered more cases than in Lombardy.

11:56 a.m. The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly has praised Pakistan for quickly containing the coronavirus, saying the South Asian nation’s handling of the pandemic is a good example for the world.

The Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir made his comment Monday at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.

Bozkir was recently elected as the president of the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Upon his arrival in Islamabad, he met with the country’s prime minister, Imran Khan, who wants international financial institutions and rich nations to give a debt relief to poor countries whose economies have badly been affected by the new virus.

Bozkir’s visit comes amid a steady decline in COVID-19 deaths and infections in Pakistan.

Pakistan reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus in February and in March it imposed a nationwide lockdown, which has gradually been lifted in recent weeks. Pakistan on Monday reported 15 fatalities from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising its total COVID-19-related fatalities to 6,097.

11:56 a.m. Veterans who weren’t given military funeral rights when they were buried during the coronavirus pandemic have been given a final salute at the Fargo National Cemetery.

United Patriotic Bodies and Fargo Honor Guard volunteers were at the cemetery Saturday when three rifle volleys were fired and taps were played individually for 14 different families of veterans.

United Patriotic Bodies Cmdr. Jason Hicks says the salute is an honour and a duty to those who sacrificed for their country.

Gary Varberg came to the cemetery to honour his brother, Roger Nelson. KVLY-TV reported that the two served in Iraq together and decades in the National Guard.

Nelson was just one of the many veterans who wasn’t given military rights and honours when he was buried during the global pandemic.

“This means we get to say our final goodbye to our brothers and sisters,” Fargo Honor Guard Chaplain Russel Stabler said.

11:56 a.m. The family of a fourth worker who died from the coronavirus during an outbreak at Tyson Foods’ largest pork processing plant is suing the company over his death.

The lawsuit says that Isidro Fernandez, of Waterloo, Iowa, died April 26 from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and children.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in June by the same lawyers on behalf of the estates of three other deceased Waterloo employees.

The lawsuits allege Tyson put employees at risk by downplaying concerns and covering up the outbreak to keep them on the job. They allege the company failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to keep working, and falsely assured the public that the plant was safe.

The company says the workers’ deaths are tragic but that it vigorously disputes the allegations. Tyson says that it worked during the pandemic to follow safety guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to keep workers safe.

11:56 a.m. Greece’s government has announced additional restrictions aimed at curbing a flare-up of coronavirus cases that has led to a spike of new daily infections and an increase in the number of critically ill people in the country.

Deputy government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said Monday that as of Aug. 17, anyone arriving in Greece by plane from Spain, Holland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Sweden will have to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken up to 72 hours before arrival. Proof of negative tests will also be required for anyone entering the country by land, including Greek citizens and permanent residents.

All events with standing customers or spectators, such as concerts, are cancelled across the country. Bars, restaurants and cafes will be shut from midnight to 7 a.m. in several locations, including the popular tourist destinations of Mykonos, Paros, Antiparos and Santorini, among others.

After managing to keep infections and deaths at low levels following an early lockdown in the initial phase of the pandemic, Greece has seen a recent surge in cases. On Sunday, Greece announced 203 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing its total to 5,623, with an overall death toll of 212.

11:56 a.m. Denmark’s health minister says the virus is “on its way back,” and has announced local measures to contain it.

“We are intervening with local measures that are fitted to local needs,” Magnus Heunicke told a news conference on Monday. “We are doing that to avoid a total lockdown of the country.”

Increases in the number of cases were reported in Aarhus — Denmark’s second-largest city — and in six other places geographically spread across the country of nearly 6 million.

Since Sunday, Denmark has recorded 76 new cases, totalling 14,815 cases and 620 deaths. More than half of the new cases are in Aarhus,

The decision comes after Aarhus made it mandatory as of Monday to use face masks on public transportation.

10:18 a.m. The Quebec government is set to unveil its COVID-19 strategy for a return to class today as schools prepare to reopen in less than a month.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has been under pressure to provide updated details, as other provinces have done in recent weeks.

Parents have raised several concerns including questions about remote learning, smaller class sizes and details of how another COVID-19 shutdown would be handled.

Under Quebec’s back-to-school strategy announced in June, the government said students across the province would return to class full time from pre-school to Grade 9, with in-class bubbles of six children and physical distancing.

Teachers would move between classrooms and maintain a two-metre distance from students.

For students in Grades 10 and 11, the current plan offers them the choice to go back full time or attend classes in person once every two days.

School boards are responsible for creating contingency measures should a COVID-19 outbreak occur.

Roberge, Health Minister Christian Dube and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, will take part in today’s news conference in Montreal.

On Friday, Arruda explained the general approach to the return to school.

“If our expectation is to have no cases in schools, that’s nearly impossible,” he said.

He added it is more important to make sure COVID-19 outbreaks are not widespread in schools when they do occur.

10:13 a.m. Germany’s foreign minister says it is critical that any vaccine developed for the coronavirus is made available to everyone around the world.

Heiko Maas spoke with his counterpart from South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha, during her visit to Berlin on Monday, and said they both agreed that “we need more worldwide co-ordination to shoulder the challenges, not less.”

Both South Korea and Germany have been lauded for being able to quickly and effectively slow the spread of the virus in their countries, but Maas cautioned that “we are still in the middle of the pandemic.”

He says “in order to overcome it, the question of how drugs and vaccinations are distributed after their development will be central.”

“It is a human imperative that they be made available quickly and to as many people as possible, and not just those who can afford it,” Maas said.

10:13 a.m. The head of the World Health Organization predicted that the number of people infected by the coronavirus will hit 20 million this week, including about 750,000 deaths.

In a briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that “behind these statistics there is a great deal of pain and suffering” but said there were still “green shoots of hope” no matter what stage in an outbreak a country or region might be. He offered no new strategies to combat the virus but said again that “leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures,” pointing to New Zealand as an example for the world. The country recently marked 100 days with no local spread of the virus.

Tedros said that recently adopted measures in countries including Britain and France, which have imposed targeted lockdowns and mask-wearing strategies in the last week, were a good example of specific strategies needed to curb a new upsurge in cases.

10:13 a.m. The head of the German Teachers’ Association is calling for coronavirus masks to be made compulsory in the classroom.

Heinz-Peter Meidinger told the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that “whoever wants full lessons can’t avoid compulsory masks.”

In an interview published Monday, Meidinger pointed out that most of Germany’s 16 states require basic mouth and nose coverings in supermarkets, public transport and at large events, but not in schools.

So far, only Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, requires students and teachers to wear masks during lessons, though some others are considering such a move.

In Berlin, where students return to school Monday, masks are only required outside the classroom.

10:13 a.m. New locally transmitted cases of coronavirus in China fell to just 14 over the past 24 hours, the National Health Commission reported Monday. The low figure was offset, however, by 35 cases brought into the country by Chinese travellers from overseas.

All the cases of local transmission were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city Urumqi is the centre of China’s latest outbreak. Tightened restrictions on travel, widespread testing and a lockdown on some residential communities appear to have been effective in bringing down numbers of new infections in Urumqi, while a separate outbreak in the northeastern city of Dalian seems to have run its course.

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Chinese hospitals are currently treating 802 people for COVID-19, 41 of them in serious condition, while another 290 people are under observation while being isolated for showing signs of having the virus or for testing positive without displaying symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,634 fatalities from the disease among 84,668 cases.

Hong Kong reported another 72 cases and five deaths as it continues to battle a new wave of infections with tightened rules on indoor dining and obligatory mask wearing in public settings. The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has reported 52 deaths among 4,079 total cases.

10:13 a.m. Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mukherjee, 84, said Monday that he found out he was positive when he went for a routine health check-up. He requested all those who came in contact with him in the last week to isolate themselves and get tested.

Mukherjee was India’s president between 2012 and 2017.

Over the last few weeks, several political leaders in India have either tested positive for the coronavirus or gone into quarantine.

India has reported nearly 2.3 million cases of coronavirus, the third-highest number in the world after the United States and Brazil. At least 44,386 people have died.

The country has been reporting an average of around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.

10:12 a.m. Ontario is reporting 115 new cases of COVID-19. Health Minister Christine Elliott says 28 out of 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 18 of them reporting no new cases. On Sunday, the province processed 22,275 tests.

9:42 a.m. (updated): The Windsor-Essex region will join the rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Wednesday.

The provincial government made the announcement Monday morning.

Outbreaks among migrant workers on farms in the region had previously held Windsor-Essex back from Stage 3.

Other parts of the province entered Stage 3 on July 17, 24, and 31.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, says he made the decision based on positive local trends.

Those include lower transmission of COVID-19, a significant increase in testing and the local public health unit’s capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

9:10 a.m. Windsor-Essex will be allowed to move into Stage 3 on Wednesday, the Ontario government says. In a press release, it says the decision was based on “positive local trends of key public health indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.”

8:10 a.m. The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization said that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to follow the seasonal patterns that some viruses exhibit, making it harder to control.

Unlike other respiratory viruses like influenza that spread mainly in the winter, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in the summer. That’s despite earlier predictions from some scientists and politicians it would fade in the heat.

“This virus has demonstrated no seasonal pattern as such,” said Dr. Michael Ryan at a press briefing on Monday. “What it has clearly demonstrated is that if you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” he said. Ryan said the U.N. health agency continues to advise countries even where COVID-19 appears to be under control, such as those in Europe, to maintain measures to slow virus spread.

He called for countries where transmission remains intense, such as Brazil, to adopt measures so that communities have the necessary support they need to implement strategies like social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolating if they have symptoms.

7:36 a.m. Iran shut down a newspaper on Monday after it published remarks by an expert who said the official figures on coronavirus cases and deaths in the country account for only 5 per cent of the real toll.

Mohammad Reza Sadi, the editor-in-chief of Jahane Sanat, told the official IRNA news agency that authorities closed his newspaper, which began publishing in 2004 and was mainly focused on business news.

On Sunday, the daily quoted Mohammad Reza Mahboobfar, an epidemiologist the paper said had worked on the government’s anti-coronavirus campaign, as saying the true number of cases and deaths in Iran could be 20 times the number reported by the Health Ministry.

He also said the virus was detected in Iran a month earlier than Feb. 19, when authorities announced the first confirmed case. He said they held up the announcement until after the commemorations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and parliamentary elections earlier that month.

“The administration resorted to secrecy for political and security reasons,” he said, and only provided “engineered statistics” to the public.

He also criticized testing efforts and warned of a renewed outbreak next month as universities hold entrance exams and people mark major Shiite holidays.

Iran’s Health Ministry has reported a total of nearly 330,000 cases and 18,616 deaths, including 189 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

6:18 a.m.: Decades of progress in one of modern history’s greatest achievements, the fight against extreme poverty, are in danger of slipping away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world could see its first increase in extreme poverty in 22 years after whittling it down to 10% of the population, further sharpening inequalities.

Up to 100 million more people globally could fall into the bitter existence of living on just $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. That’s “well below any reasonable conception of a life with dignity,” the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty wrote this year. It comes on top of the 736 million people already there, half in just five countries: Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Congo and Bangladesh.

6:09 a.m.: After nearly a decade of doing keg stands in university lectures, funnelling beers next to police and provoking hockey dads, they’ve become two of the most recognizable personalities for young people in North America: Jesse Sebastiani and Kyle Forgeard, a pair of heavy-drinking, hard-talking Ontarians, better known as “Nelk.”

Boasting nearly 5.5 million subscribers on YouTube alone, their provocative prank videos — which have led to arrests — have garnered more than 700 million video views. On Instagram, flanked by a crew of abrasive, hypermasculine personalities, Nelk broadcasts their brand of pranking and partying to more than 3.4 million followers (including Drake and Justin Bieber).

But the crew’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which include organizing packed “brotests” to push California to open its gyms, lavish partying and constant travel within the U.S., are being criticized by fans who want them to set a better example.

Read Ted Fraser’s full story on the Canadian pranksters and how their ‘dangerous’ decision to party during the pandemic is good for business.

6 a.m.: On the line from Windsor, twin sisters Mesia Walker and Nena Buduhan are laughing in that way you laugh when you’ve reached the end of your rope. Laughing to keep from crying.

Walker and Buduhan are the owners of two yoga studios — Modo Yoga Windsor and Modo Yoga Tecumseth — in the only part of the province where yoga studios are still prohibited from opening.

While every other region in Ontario has moved forward into Stage 3 and is able to reap the economic benefits of a broader reopening, Windsor-Essex has been left behind, largely due to a series of COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant farm workers in the towns of Kingsville and Leamington.

Tension is growing between the business community — anxious to reopen like the rest of the province — and public health officials, who say Windsor-Essex still isn’t ready.

Read the full story here from the Star’s Brendan Kennedy.

5:31 a.m.: As they struggle to salvage some semblance of a campus experience this fall, U.S. colleges are requiring promises from students to help contain the coronavirus — no keg parties, no long road trips and no outside guests on campus.

No kidding. Administrators warn that failure to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid mass gatherings could bring serious consequences, including getting booted from school.

Critics question whether it’s realistic to demand that college students not act like typical college students. But the push illustrates the high stakes for universities planning to welcome at least some students back. Wide-scale COVID-19 testing, quarantines and plexiglass barriers in classrooms won’t work if too many students misbehave.

5:20 a.m.: India has registered a record 1,007 fatalities in the past 24 hours as fresh coronavirus infections surged by another 62,064 cases.

The Health Ministry says the total fatalities touched 44,386 on Monday.

The number of positive cases reported so far are 2,215,074. At least 634,935 patients were still undergoing treatment.

India has recorded more than 60,000 cases of the virus daily in the last four days and more infections than any other country in the world for six consecutive days. It has averaged around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.

India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2% is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries.

5:15 a.m.: Sri Lanka has started reopening schools nearly five months after they were shut down to contain the spread of the virus. The government’s move to reopen schools from Monday comes as health authorities say that they have successfully brought the coronavirus under control.

Under the reopening plan, students in grades 5, 10, 11, 12 and 13 will attend school every day because they need to be prepared to for government examinations. Students in grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 will attend a single day per week, while students in grades 4 and 9 will come two days per week. Sri Lanka has reported 2,841 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

5:12 a.m.: China’s number of local transmissions fell to just 14 but was offset by 35 new cases among Chinese travellers coming from overseas. All of the new local cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city Urumqi is the centre of China’s latest outbreak.

China has reported 4,634 fatalities from the disease among 84,668 cases. Hong Kong reported another 72 cases and five deaths as it continues to battle a new wave of infections with tightened rules on indoor dining and obligatory mask wearing in public settings. The semi-autonomous Chinese city has reported 52 deaths among 4,079 total cases.

Monday 5:10 a.m.: Australia has reported fewer new daily cases from its virus hotspot in the city of Melbourne than on any single day since last month. But it has also reported the nation’s highest daily death total since the virus outbreak began.

The state of Victoria reported 322 new infections and 19 new deaths on Monday, with 14 of the deaths connected to outbreaks at aged-care facilities.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was more hopeful now that cases are stabilizing in Victoria than he has been at any time over the past week.

But state premier Daniel Andrews cautioned that not too much could be read into a single day’s worth of data, and that some of the state’s most stringent lockdown measures had only come into effect at midnight Sunday.

The number of new cases was the lowest recorded in Victoria since July 29.

Sunday 9:30 p.m.: Quebec reported 104 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday along with three further deaths linked to the virus.

The total number of infections in the province stood at 60,471.

Of the three deaths announced by health authorities, two were reported in the past 24 hours while the other dates back before Aug. 1.

The province has seen total of 5,695 deaths since the pandemic began.

Sunday 8:35 p.m. The federal Liberal government has handed over thousands of pages of documents related to the WE controversy to a House of Commons committee, which lawyers are now vetting for personal information and cabinet secrets.

The finance committee demanded the documents last month as it probes whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with WE Charity influenced the government’s ill-fated decision to have the organization run a federal student-volunteer program.

Committee members are hoping the documents will shed light on the discussions that led to the decision to have WE run the Canada Student Services Grant, before the deal was cancelled amid controversy in early July.

“People are asking a lot of questions,” NDP finance critic Peter Julian said in an interview. “There’s been a lot of contradictions in testimony. So the documents should be revealing a lot more of what the real answers are.”

Yet while the Liberals turned more than 5,000 pages over to the committee ahead of Saturday’s deadline, it wasn’t clear when they would be released to members as committee lawyers go through them to prevent the release of protected information.

“We don’t know,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said during a news conference on Sunday when asked when committee members would get the documents. “We have asked. They have not given us the timeline.”

Committee chairman Wayne Easter, a Liberal MP, predicted the documents would be released in the coming days to members as additional lawyers from the public service have been brought in to help review them for cabinet secrets and other information.

Even after the documents are released, however, there will could be disagreements about why certain information was withheld.

Sunday 5:45 p.m.: New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, a rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the disease.

Life has returned to normal for many people in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected. But some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks.

New Zealand got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That stopped its spread. For the past three months, the only new cases have been a handful of returning travellers who have been quarantined at the border.

“It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference,” said professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. “If you look around the globe at countries that have done well, it’s usually that combination.”

Click here to read more of Sunday’s coverage.

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Canada-China spat heats up over ambassador's alleged threat – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The diplomatic spat between Canada and China grew more heated on Monday as Beijing denounced press criticism of its ambassador to Ottawa, only to have Canada’s deputy prime minister and opposition leader echo the criticism.

The exchange comes at a moment when ties between the countries are at their lowest point in years, largely due to China’ outrage over Canada’s detention of a top executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and the subsequent arrest of two Canadians.

The new friction arose when China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, branded pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as violent criminals and said if Canada grants them asylum it would amount to interference in China’s internal affairs.

“If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said in a video news conference from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

Asked if his remarks amounted to a threat, Cong replied, “That is your interpretation.”

Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland said in Parliament on Monday that the ambassador’s comments “are not in any way in keeping with the spirit of appropriate diplomatic countries between two countries.”

Freeland said Canada will speak out for human rights in China and said Canada will support its citizens living in Hong Kong. “Let me also reassure the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong that a Canadian is a Canadian and we will stand with them.” Freeland said.

Her statements came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters that his government had complained to Canada over press criticism of Cong’s remarks. He said Canadian leaders “did not verify, but also condoned the anti-China comments spreading across the nation and made groundless accusations against China.”

He didn’t specify the media criticism, but the Toronto Sun on Saturday published an editorial calling on Cong to apologize, adding. “If he won’t apologize and retract his threats, boot him back to Beijing.”

Meanwhile, Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s main opposition Conservative party, said Monday that Cong had threatened Canadians in Hong Kong and called on the envoy to either apologize or leave.

Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, a group that advocates for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, called Cong’s comment a “direct threat” to all Canadians.

“It should not be lost on Canadians living in Hong Kong or China, they could be next. Ambassador Cong suggested so himself,” Wong said.

Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a new national security law that took effect June 30.

The law outlaws subversive, secessionist and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s internal affairs. The U.S., Britain and Canada accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms.

Cong also rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that China is engaging in coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadian men in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive on an American extradition warrant. The executive, Meng Wanzhou, is living under house arrest in Vancouver while her case wends through a British Columbia court.

In December 2018, China imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with undermining China’s national security. Convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg was also sentenced to death in a sudden retrial shortly after Meng’s arrest.

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COVID-19 cases in Canada surpass 200000 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed Canada’s total case count past the 200,000 mark on Monday as tougher health restrictions took effect in some regions facing a surge in infections.

The latest numbers from Saskatchewan lifted the national tally over the bleak milestone as the province reported 66 new cases of the novel coronavirus, though other provinces reported significantly more new cases.

The development came just over four months after Canada reached the 100,000-case threshold.

The bulk of the country’s case load has been concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, though numbers have been surging in much of the country in recent weeks.

The 200,000-case milestone isn’t all that significant in and of itself but it does provide an opportunity to examine how the country is doing in grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Barry Pakes, a public health and preventatine medicine physician with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Canada saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in late January and marked 100,000 cases in mid-June, about five months later.

That it took almost as long to double the caseload to 200,000 suggests public health measures slowed the virus’s spread to some degree in that time, Pakes said.

“That’s not how infectious diseases work – they double, and they go straight up on an exponential line, and when we put in proper public health measures we’re able to dull that somewhat, so I think that’s a testament to what we’ve been doing so far,” he said.

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that Canada is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, and milestones such as this one can sometimes serve as a reminder not to let our guard down, he said.

“The problem arises when we rest on our laurels and I think we shouldn’t do that, but I think we can be sort of hopeful that we won’t see some of the numbers and some of the really big societal effects that have been seen in the U.S. or Europe,” he said.

“But it does remain to be seen.”

Quebec continued to lead in new daily cases, reporting 1,038 cases and six more deaths Monday – the fourth consecutive day it has seen more than 1,000 new infections.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 704 new cases and four new deaths.

The province has reinstated stricter health measures in four regions – Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa – and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor, recommended against traditional Halloween activities in those areas.

The tighter rules, which include closing gyms and movie theaters and barring indoor dining in restaurants or bars, kicked in for York Region on Monday but took effect earlier this month in the other three hot spots.

Williams said that when daily case counts began to rise again in September, the province predicted it would see new infections double every 10 to 12 days, which would have led to daily numbers in the 1,200 to 1,400 range by now. He noted that at the time, the City of Toronto also predicted seeing its cases double every six days if no additional steps were taken.

“Neither of us, fortunately, have seen that. Measures have been taken, they’ve dropped that down,” he said Monday.

The daily case numbers were slow to come down in the first wave but they did drop over time, “and I think we can do that again,” he said.

Manitoba reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly two thirds of them in Winnipeg, as new restrictions on gatherings and businesses took effect in that city. The new rules limit gatherings to five people and force casinos and bars to close, and will be reviewed in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced Monday that limits on travel between Canada and the United States will remain in place until Nov. 21.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Oct. 19 – CBC.ca

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A health worker waits to collect swab samples from residents to test for the novel coronavirus at a sample collection centre in Hyderabad, India, on Monday. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

Canada-U.S. border closure extended but Trump, Trudeau far apart on next steps 

Although Canada and the U.S. have agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel, they don’t appear to agree on several related issues — including what to do next. More than seven months after the border closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have offered up contradictory messages about the border’s future.

The Canada-U.S. border closure agreement was set to expire on Oct. 21, but the Canadian government announced on Monday that the closure will be extended until at least Nov. 21. In an interview last Wednesday on Winnipeg podcast The Start, Trudeau said Canada plans to keep the border closed as long as COVID-19 case counts in the U.S. remain high. “We keep extending the border closures because the United States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” he said.

Four weeks prior, Trump offered a different prognosis for the Canada-U.S. border closure. “We’re looking at the border with Canada — Canada would like it open,” he said at the White House on Sept. 18. “So we’re gonna be opening the borders pretty soon…. We want to get back to normal business.”

Foreign affairs expert Edward Alden said the disconnect between the two leaders suggests there are currently no joint discussions about an eventual reopening plan. Alden said he understands why the border is closed for now, but that it’s important to start laying the groundwork for a reopening plan. “The problem of not having those negotiations is, when do we possibly have a sense of when it will be safe to reopen the border?”

Even though many Canadians support the border closure, which took effect in late March, it has devastated the tourism industry, separated loved ones and hurt border communities in both Canada and the U.S.

Click below to watch more from The National

Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

IN BRIEF

Ontario recommends against trick-or-treating in COVID-19 hot zones

The provincial government is recommending that kids not go out trick-or-treating in those parts of Ontario that have been hardest hit by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. “Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

The province says trick-or-treating is permissible outside of those regions, but with numerous safeguards in place, including only going out with members of your household, wearing a face covering other than a costume, and not leaving treats in buckets.

Some health professionals objected on Twitter to the ban. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital, said the “goal should be to find ways to do things safely rather than cancel. Halloween shouldn’t be too tough to do safely: Outside, wearing masks, restricted to family units, distant from others … is about as low-risk as it gets.” Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto who studies infectious diseases, asked why kids are allowed in classrooms, and outdoor unmasked dining is permitted in these regions, but trick-or-treating is not.

At his daily news conference Monday, Ford said these measures are necessary to “protect Christmas and the holiday season. “We’re trying to make it as safe and as simple as possible,” Ford said. “My friends, we all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween. We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot.” Both Ford and Williams were asked about what specific benchmarks the province would need to see to allow for relaxed restrictions around the Christmas season. Neither provided specific answers, citing uncertainty around the world when it comes to the virus.

Commons installs plexiglass to protect pages as MPs accused of ignoring physical distancing rules 

The House of Commons is installing new plexiglass barriers by Monday because pages are reporting that MPs have been flouting COVID-19 pandemic public health rules, CBC News has learned. According to an internal Commons administration email, some pages have expressed concerns about their health and their families’ safety because some MPs and staffers are not physically distancing from others while their face masks are off in the lobbies — the lounges on Parliament Hill where MPs can hold meetings or grab food while monitoring events inside the Commons chamber next door.

“Specifically, some members and staff who are not wearing masks are sometimes in close proximity to you when you are posted in the lobbies,” Alexandre Jacques, procedural clerk and page program co-ordinator, wrote in an Oct. 1 email to House of Commons pages. “This is something that supervisors and I have noticed in the past few days and are concerned about this.”

MPs and staff do not have to wear masks while sitting in the House of Commons chamber or in the government or opposition lobbies — but they are supposed to physically distance themselves, according to rules from the governing body of the Commons. A House of Commons source told CBC News that the pages’ complaints are aimed at behaviour observed in the opposition lobby shared by the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois. Some MPs and staff from all three of those opposition parties have been seen breaking the rules, the source said.

Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May told CBC News she’s personally witnessed MPs in the opposition lobby ignoring physical distancing guidelines on multiple occasions. She said she’s seen both Conservatives and New Democrat MPs breaking the rules but thinks the Bloc caucus has been more careful. She said she has found the Liberal lobby to be “pretty well empty” lately. Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould said mask use indoors should be made mandatory for MPs throughout the House of Commons. “All MPs should wear masks when indoors, just as rules are set for all other indoor spaces in Ontario,” she said.

Companies wary of hiring and expanding because of COVID uncertainty, Bank of Canada survey finds 

The Bank of Canada says companies are hedging hiring plans and wage growth expectations in the coming months over heightened uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press reports. The central bank’s business outlook survey finds hiring intentions remain below their historical averages, suggesting modest hiring plans even as the overall outlook on employment edges up.

Almost one-third of businesses told the bank they expect their workforce numbers to remain below pre-pandemic levels for at least the next 12 months, or to never fully recover. The survey also finds that wage growth is widely expected to slow over the next year, mostly a result of the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, with some firms reporting a wage freeze.

The bank also says that nearly half of firms surveyed used the federal wage subsidy program to avoid layoffs or quickly refill positions. About 100 firms took part in the bank’s regular survey out this morning, but did so between late August and mid-September when COVID-19 case counts were still low.

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world

THE SCIENCE

One-size-fits-all COVID-19 messaging falls flat, project suggests

Behavioural medicine suggests that moving away from a one-size-fits-all message for pandemic messaging to a more personalized approach would work better at motivating people to make important sacrifices.

Prof. Kim Lavoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Prof. Simon Bacon of Concordia University, have been surveying people throughout the pandemic about what motivates them as part of the iCARE (International COVID-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation Study) project.

The findings suggest that younger people might be more motivated by the socio-economic fallout of reimposing restrictions rather than risk to their individual health from COVID-19, compared with people over the age of 65. “Show how long it’s going to take us to pay down the debt, this is how long it’s going to take, the longer we remain in this,” Lavoie said.

Individual goals matter, too. A common message from public health officials is: “We’re all going to get through this.” But to Lavoie, that doesn’t go far enough. Her version is: “We are going to get out of this only together. This is how and this is why, and this is what’s in store for us the quicker we achieve that,” she said. “We’re all going to benefit. Some of you will benefit by protecting your health. Some of you will benefit by protecting your business. Some of you will benefit by being able to have your dream wedding.”

AND FINALLY…

NHL could be forced to play next season in modified bubble

Tampa Bay Lightning players celebrate in front of empty stands after defeating the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup in Edmonton last month. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

If the NHL hopes to start a new season in January, there probably won’t be any fans in the buildings and games could be played in some sort of modified bubble format, say some experts. The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will begin meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a return to play, although there’s already been some dialogue between the two sides. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league hopes to begin Jan. 1 and wants to play a full 82-game season with fans in arenas.

But whatever plans are in place when the season opens could change over time. “It would be premature to speculate on what next season might look like at this point,” Gary Meagher, the NHL’s executive vice-president of communications, told CBC Sports in an email. “The league and the NHLPA are focused on what makes the most sense from a scheduling standpoint. We are going to be flexible and adaptable, but we also understand that important considerations like the status of the Canada-U.S. border and the state of COVID in the next few months are simply guesswork at this point.”

Earl Brown, a professor emeritus in biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa, said even if a vaccine were developed for COVID-19 in the next couple of months, it’s unlikely enough people would be immune by the beginning of the new year. “So given the way it is now, I would not put my money on [the] NHL [having fans] at the beginning of next year,” he said.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, also questioned the league’s suggested timetable. “I cannot see that all of the boxes are going to be checked for the NHL,” said Lander. “They’re not going to be able to start on Jan. 1 with fans [and] with free movement of teams. Something’s going to have to be sacrificed there.”

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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